Miracles: Your questions answered
What are they? Do they still occur today? Why are they important?
If you’ve ever looked through the pages of the Bible, it seems that miracles are everywhere. Burning bushes, talking donkeys, floating axe heads, people being healed, and water being turned to wine are just a few of the examples seen throughout the pages of Scripture. Did such events really occur? Do they happen today?
In this post, we’re going consider what miracles are, whether or not they really happen, and why they are important.
What are miracles?
People report miracles happening all the time. I’ve heard people say things like “every time a baby is born it’s a miracle” or “I was almost late for a meeting when miraculously a spot opened just as I was pulling into the parking lot.” Are such events as babies being born or parking spots opening up really miracles?
Words over time are stretched to encompass a wide range of meanings. Think of how we use the word “awesome” so flippantly. One minute we say to our friend that his guitar playing is awesome, and then, in the next breath, we sing about how awesome God is. Clearly God’s awesomeness is on a completely different level than our friend’s shredding ability.
In the same way, often what we claim to be miraculous is really not at all. Good timing is not a miracle (like getting that perfect parking spot), but neither are all acts of God’s working in the world. Christians believe that God is ultimately in control. God governs the world and He is constantly acting, sustaining the universe, answering prayers, and working in the lives of His people. But these things are not defined as miracles; they are, however, part of God’s regular workings. In other words, miracles are part of God’s working in the world, but not all acts of God’s working in the world are miraculous.
So, what, then, are miracles? Miracles are, in many ways, contrary to the normal happenings of things in the world. A clear example of a miracle is Jesus turning water into wine. That’s something that just doesn’t happen. The stuff that makes up wine is completely different than the stuff that makes up water. Chemically, it’s impossible for such an event as water turning to wine to happen on its own. Another example of a miracle is a person being raised from the dead. On any given day, people just don’t rise from the dead. Such an event is contrary to normal, everyday experience, and it is contrary to the laws of nature (like the law of gravity or the second law of thermodynamics).
Another important thing to keep in mind about miracles is that they do not just happen arbitrarily or by chance; rather, miracles are caused by an "agent"—someone who is able to carry out or perform such an action—for a specific purpose. But this agent is not just any agent. The agent must be powerful enough to perform some kind of action that goes contrary to nature. Christians believe this agent is God.
Therefore, for our purposes, we’re going to define a miracle as an event caused by an agent (God) that is contrary to the natural happenings of things in the world.
Do miracles really happen?
But do miracles really happen? Do they happen today? How a person answers these questions ultimately depends upon his or her worldview.
Naturalists are people who claim that there is nothing beyond the universe. The natural realm is all you get. If there is something beyond the universe, then it’s just more of the same—nature. For naturalists, the universe (or nature) is closed. Nothing can enter it or leave it. Obviously, then, naturalists are opposed to miracles.
Supernaturalists, on the other hand, have a broader view of what makes up reality. Supernaturalists believe that the universe is not all there is and that the universe is open up to influences from outside of it.
Christians are supernaturalists. They believe that God, who created the entire universe out of nothing, and who sustains its very existence (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:2-3; 11:3), also acts in the world.
It ultimately comes down to what a person does with God. If God exists, as Christians believe, then it doesn’t seem at all that impossible to affirm that miracles really do happen in the world—even today.
Why are miracles important?
So, why are miracles important? Does God get a kick out of changing things around or manipulating the laws of nature?
God doesn’t act for no good reason. According to Scripture, there are several, specific reasons why God brings about miracles in the world. Consider the following:
- To deliver God’s people from danger (Exodus 14:21-31)
- To demonstrate that the God of the Bible is the one true God (Exodus 7:2-5; 1 Kings 18:16-38)
- To bring about belief (Exodus 14:31; John 10:37-38; 20:30-31)
- To authenticate God’s Message or Messenger (John 10:25)
Furthermore, the life of Jesus, from His birth to His resurrection, was full of miracles. Every miracle that Jesus performed was ultimately to point others to God, and it was through Jesus’ miracles that God authenticated His message—the good news. The good news proclaims that God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 14, 18). It is through Jesus that God most fully reveals Himself to the world. In Jesus we see Emmanuel, “God with us.” God, through His Son, became like us in order to reconcile us and to restore our broken relationship with Him. God offers us eternal life, which is true and abundant life, and this life is to know God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3)